When someone you love is struggling with drugs or alcohol, the situation can be stressful and paralyzing. In some cases, family and friends fall into traps such as ignoring the problem or secretly hoping that it’s not as serious as it might seem. Loved ones might even make the same excuses for someone’s substance abuse that the person using drugs or alcohol makes for himself or herself: they’re dealing with stress and it’s a temporary thing, they only drink when they’re in social environments or they are controlling it themselves and still able to function at work.
Engaging in such denial isn’t helpful for your loved one or yourself, and can actually put the person in addiction — and his or her close friends and family — at greater risk. For Christians who see someone struggling with substance abuse or addiction, there are even more reasons to speak up: the Bible tells us that we shouldn’t let our brothers and sisters be caught in sin.
Don’t let someone struggle with addiction alone
Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.“
While enjoying a beer with friends isn’t necessarily a sin, turning away from the life God provided and turning instead to drugs or alcohol can be a sin. When someone is caught in addiction, they often create an idol out of what they crave, which is a sin in itself. Add to that the actions many people take when seeking or using drugs, and sin is definitely involved in the equation.
By standing aside — whether out of denial or discomfort in approaching the situation — Christian friends and family let someone remain in sin and don’t open potential doors for the person to be restored in the Spirit and return to Christ.
The Matthew 18 Confrontation
The Bible is very clear about the difference between confronting a brother and sister in Christ about sin and being judgmental of others. For Christians, this means treading carefully both when approaching someone who isn’t Christian and when confronting a fellow Christian about addiction. It can be a good idea to follow the Matthew 18 example when you want to talk to a loved one who is Christian about their substance abuse. In the passage from 18:15-17, Jesus is actually talking about people who sin against each other in the church, but the advice is applicable in addiction situations too.
Jesus gives us a sort of technical manual to follow in these cases. First, he says, go to the person in private to discuss the matter. In the case of substance abuse, if you have reason to fear the safety of you or the person in question should you approach the matter alone, plan ahead with another loved one or a church, substance abuse, medical or mental health professional.
If that doesn’t work, Jesus says to return to the person, this time with a few more trustworthy people. In the substance abuse world, that might look like a small intervention, with friends and family reaching out together in love.
Jesus says next bring the matter to the entire church, but remember that he was speaking about a matter within the church. When dealing with addiction, the equivalent step might be seeking outside professional help for your loved one, especially if they are also struggling with mental health issues and you don’t believe they can make a voluntary decision about seeking rehab and treatment themselves.
Growing Spiritually Together
It’s important to remember that approaching a loved one about addiction or substance abuse should never involve judgment. Instead, it should be a process by which you grow spiritually together. Ephesians 4:15 says, “. . . speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Before you approach someone who you believe is struggling with addiction, prepare yourself with prayer and by spending time with Christ. Ask for God’s guidance in the matter so that you can handle yourself with grace and speak the truth in a way that is firm but loving. By showing someone you really do care and that, even if you can’t understand what he or she is going through, that you aren’t judging them, you increase the chance that they will listen to what you have to say.
If you aren’t sure how to approach a loved one about drugs or alcohol use — or if your friend or family member is ready to learn about treatment options — call The Road to Freedom today for more information. (844)402-3605.